Audio fans! This just in:
“Life Elsewhere, a radio show from Tampa, FL, interviewed our current president, Mark Burstein, on Carroll’s birthday, January 27. The host, Norman B, was a bit obsessed with the usual canards about Carroll’s alleged fondness for young girls and drug use, which Mark defended to the best of his ability in a rather wide-ranging interview. Mark also begs your indulgence for any minor factual errors or anything else he uttered due to nervousness. The sound bites added afterwards are from the Jonathan Miller production. You can get a podcast or download an .mp3 at http://feeds.feedburner.com/wmnf/life_elsewhere (it’s the first half-hour).”
One of our mimsy minions reports the release of a new (and free) 60-minute audio adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by a Canadian collective known as Voices in the Wind. After a quick listen to parts, I can tell you that the adaptation is quite loose (and Alice does not have a British accent). There is also at least one Disney-esque musical number.
Click me to read an article about the recording.
Click me to go directly to Voices in the Wind’s web site.
A lost mural of Alice in Wonderland and the archaeologist determined to bring it to light were the subjects of an interesting tale told by San Diego public radio station, KPBS, yesterday.
Seth Mallios, head of the anthropology department at SDSU, had been hunting down murals, once common all over campus, when he heard about the Alice mural from Evelyn Kooperman, a retired librarian.
When she was a little girl in the 1950s, her mother used to take her to see two murals tucked away in Hardy Tower. One featured the character of Odysseus. The other, was the “Alice in Wonderland” mural. “I just thought they were wonderful,” says Kooperman. “They were big and bright and colorful. And I just loved them and every year I would say to my mother, ‘I want to go see Alice! I want to go see Alice!’”
Read about Mallios’s discovery of the mural, and of the artist who painted it, on the KPBS website. You can also see an old photograph of the mural and listen to the original radio broadcast.
The great country revival duo, Gillian Welch (with Dave Rawlings), released their first album in almost a decade, The Harrow & the Harvest. (It’s really good.) They went on Fresh Air with Terry Gross to schlep it, and at the end of the show, Gross asked them to play a cover, “to surprise us with a song that we might not think that they like.” They chose Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” and it’s a pretty damned beautiful cover of that song. Starting at 41 minutes into the show, Welch explains why they chose that song, and then their version of it gets cut off for the credits. HOWEVER, naturally, they’re hawking it as a special single on iTunes, for $1.29. Remember what the dormouse said… “That I can’t remember,” said the Hatter.
Lynne Truss, author of the best-selling grammar-romp Eats, Shoots and Leaves, recently appeared on the BBC Radio 4 program “Great Lives” to discuss her fascination with Lewis Carroll. You can listen to the half-hour program at leisure on the BBC iPlayer.
Interviewed by British author Matthew Parris, Truss discusses her life-long fondness for Lewis Carroll – fondness that led her to include him as a character in her 2010 novel Tennyson’s Gift. The interview also features Robin Wilson, author of Lewis Carroll in Numberland and together the trio address questions such as “Dodgson the Mathematician: Was he any good?”. They also do a good-spirited rendition of Alice being introduced to the banquet in Through the Looking-Glass. Matthew Parris plays the pudding.
Lewis Carroll was not mentioned by name, nor was the word ‘portmanteau’ ever dropped, but Humpty Dumpty’s spirit lurked around the September 13th, 2009, episode of This American Life (#389 Frenemies). Starting at 29:45 in the episode, Ira Glass interviews lexicographer Erin McKean, whom he had asked to research the word ‘frenemy’. She found the first attempted coinage by gossip columnist Walter Winchell in 1953, who wrote “how’s about calling the Russians our ‘frenemies’?”, although the word didn’t really take off till decades later.
Their conversation, transcribed, starting at 32:00 in the episode:
Glass: Wait, are there other words like this, where they sound alike, and then they get smashed together into one word?
McKean: Oh, it happens, like, all the time. I mean, think, there’s, like ‘guesstimate’, right? And that’s from 1936.
Glass: Do you have another one?
McKean: I love this one, and people say this one all the time with a little thrill of thinking they’re the first person ever to say it: You know, that someone is entering their ‘anecdotage.’
Glass: I’ve never heard that. So you get old, and then you start telling your anecdotes, and that’s it?
McKean: Right, and I think the central part, is that you start telling the same anecdotes over and over again.
Glass: Right. You got another one?
McKean: Lots of people think that they are the first person to create the word ‘linner’.
McKean: Linner is that meal you must have between lunch and dinner.
Glass: That just makes me feel mad at somebody, hearing that…
(They go on to discuss the word ‘slanguage’ and lexical gaps.) The lexicographer and the radio host condescend a bit to these enthusiastic amateur wordsmiths, but they’re far from being the first people to think they’ve coined a clever portmanteau. Mark Burstein quotes from James Atherton’s The Books at the Wake, when he discusses the creation and later development of word-smashing techniques from Carroll to Finnegans Wake:
It must have astonished [James] Joyce, that avant-garde innovator, proud of his Irish nationality, contemptuous of the Church of England, and confident of his own originality, to find that he had been forestalled in so many of his discoveries by a mid-Victorian Englishman in minor Anglican orders.
Of course, Humpty Dumpty doesn’t claim to have invented the practice, nor any of the portmanteaus of which he is the master. And back to Ira Glass, it’s a shame they didn’t get into the history of “smashing together” words, but it’s interesting to learn that part of a lexicographer’s job is to let people down when they learn they didn’t invent words like ‘anecdotage’.
BBC Radio 7’s dramatization of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, performed by Sarah Jane Holm and Roy Hudd, will take place (part 1) Thursday, April 9 at 10 a.m./3.00 p.m./3.00 a.m. (Friday) GMT, and (part 2) Friday, April 10 at 10 a.m./3.00 p.m./3.00 a.m. (Saturday) GMT .